California does it again! According to California Solar Statistics which is the official public reporting site of the California Solar Initiative (CSI), the state of Redwoods, Hollywood, and the Gold Rush has installed 204,784 solar projects totaling an astounding 2033 Megawatts. (One MW is equal to one million watts!) These statistics definitely achieve the “WOW” factor and places our nation’s most populous state – the home to one out of eight Americans – as Ground Zero for renewable energy’s most visible darling: SOLAR. So how did Solar Energy Generation Systems become an essential part of life in California? The answer is simple: During the last few years under Governor Brown’s administration, permitting for small solar PV projects became as simple and standardized as possible through the stringent enforcement of the California Solar Rights Act which was passed decades ago in 1979.
Furthermore, in 2011 California adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requiring that at least one-third of the state’s electricity come from clean energy sources by 2020. In addition, many local governments also set their own targets for renewable energy. This two prong approach will result in the development of 12,000 Megawatts of small-scale, localized renewable electrical power in California by 2020.
But Governor Brown did not stop here. He noted that while solar has been successfully installed in homes throughout California for decades, it still remained hampered by overly restrictive bureaucratic red tape and governmental barriers. Thus, he proceeded with an unprecedented expansion of small-scale solar energy across California by demanding the removal of all existing governmental and other barriers that impede the development of Solar Energy Generation Systems. This removed the confusing array of permitting regulations throughout the state that had confounded the installation of solar. As a result, permitting for these small solar PV projects became as simple and standardized as possible through the stringent enforcement of the California Solar Rights Act. Through Governor Brown, this important law was reenergized so that it once again elevated the timely and cost-effective installation of solar energy systems as a matter of critical statewide importance.
Indeed, under the Solar Rights Act, the right of homeowners and businesses to access sunlight in order to generate solar energy becomes indisputably paramount by limiting the ability of local governments and homeowners associations (HOAs) to prevent the installation of solar systems.
Moreover, the Solar Rights Act finally grew teeth in that the law withholds state funding from local governments and other public entities if they are found to unreasonably restrict the installation of solar energy systems. To this end, the act’s preamble provides the clear intent of the California Legislature by stating that local governments cannot adopt ordinances that create unreasonable barriers to the installation of solar energy systems including homeowners, agricultural interests, and business concerns.
Thus, the two critical factors that escalated the exponential growth of solar in the State of California are 1) a streamlined permitting process for small solar PV systems, and 2) a significant monetary penalty for obstruction of the law. That’s the way to go California!